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Notre Dame Football

Instant Reaction | Notre Dame 45 NC State 24

September 9, 2023

A noon kick turned into a long day at the stadium. There were likely many Notre Dame fans who had flashbacks of 2011 vs South Florida or the hurricane game in Raleigh in 2016.

This was a different story. Now Notre Dame fans can think back to how this long weather delay game with fondness after the Irish turning a close game into a four touchdown lead in the fourth quarter.

It was the first true road test of the season against a Power 5 program. And make no mistake, it was a test with plenty of adversity on top of the uncontrollable weather issue.

The Irish passed it, knocking off an NC State program who had won 16 of 17 at home prior to this. They put up 45 points on a defense that hadn’t given up that many since 2019, defensive coordinator Tony Gibson’s first season. They gave up only 17 points in non-garbage time, with 10 of those primarily happening because of penalties.

Winning by three touchdowns on the road is always a good thing. Doing it while also having to overcome some adverse situations is even better.

- 11.8 yards per attempt and four touchdowns makes it seem like Sam Hartman was once again dealing, but that wasn’t the case. He had his struggles today and most of his success came on well-designed calls by Gerad Parker or big plays after the catch.

He didn’t need to be perfect, though. He needed to make a throw like the touchdown to Jaden Greathouse on the two-minute drill before half when Notre Dame needed him to. He needed to hit the layups like a couple of those play-action throws to Holden Staes.

He had help from the running game and a defense who bailed him out after he didn’t protect the football on a sack in the third quarter. It wasn’t his best game, but a day like this against a defense ranked 25th in DF+ is a good one.

- Marcus Freeman calls timeouts to give his offense time to for a drive at the end of the half. They reward him with a touchdown.

Dave Doeren wastes a timeout on a 4th down where they end up punting in plus territory. He also had his offense running out the clock at the end of the first half and because of that, they couldn’t take advantage of a 23-yard gain to try and get closer for a field goal attempt.

They end up throwing a duck on a Hail Mary.

All middle eight stans salute the coach who actually gets it.

- NC State offensive coordinator Robert Anae probably hopes he never sees Notre Dame again. Three years in a row at three different schools, here are the numbers: 4.34, 4.83, and 4.4 yards per play.

- I thought Havoc rate was going to play a big factor in this game and it was.

It was 20.5% for Notre Dame overall. NC State was an elite Havoc rate defense last season and was over 22% against UCONN. They were 11.5% against Notre Dame today.

The sacks they generated were big and that forced fumble was an important play, but they made zero plays in the secondary. Parker smartly attacked other areas in the passing game rather than test their very good corners.

- Al Golden did a nice job of attacking Armstrong with the blitz and I think people look at the one sack (in garbage time) as an indicator that the pass rush didn’t have an impact. The pressure that was brought and the pressure up the middle from blitzers and the defensive tackles forced Armstrong to get the ball out quicker than he wanted to often. He didn’t have time to sit back.

He also got bottled up as a runner. His longest carry was nine yards and he wasn’t moving the sticks with his legs.

All anyone has to do is point at the numbers to see how Armstrong got shut down in this game. Before the final drive, Armstrong had less than 192 yards passing on only 4.7 yards per attempt with three interceptions.

To be fair to him, Notre Dame’s secondary showed why they were getting so much hype in the preseason. There weren’t many easy throws to complete and three interceptions and seven pass breakups from the group pretty much nailed how good they were.

Ben Morrison even dropped an interception and Cam Hart did a poor job playing the deep ball on NC State’s longest play of the day as well.

It was a clinic.

- Spencer Shrader, what a leg. He continued to be great on kickoffs and that 54-yarder could have been good from 60+. That 56-yarder more than had the distance as well.

- I apologize to Audric Estime for saying he was not a home-run hitter as a running back when I was being interviewed by an NC State podcast. 80 to house seems like a home run to me. (I don’t apologize to the NC State fan who thought I was hyping up Notre Dame too much. I think it’s pretty obvious that the Irish have quite a bit of talent on the roster.)

That play was the first time we saw that look from Notre Dame with Davis Sherwood flexed out as a fullback and using Joe Alt as a puller. Heck of a play to break out after the long break.

I guess the coaches weren’t just thinking about hot dogs.

The flea flicker call and a handful of others are ones that Parker would have loved to have back, but the offense needed explosives to be effective against this defense and he dialed up them with play-calls to Staes. That play-action to Sherwood was also a perfect time after Notre Dame has been stuffed on a previous 3rd and short.

- Next week is going to be another tune up against Central Michigan before they get into the heart of the schedule, but Notre Dame had to (almost) play a full game to beat NC State and accomplished that.

We saw more from the team on both sides of the ball and learned a lot about them. Most of what we learned was really good.

We learned this defense is legit and the offense can find a way to put points up against a good defense. That’s the foundation of something really good and maybe even more than that.

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